One of the most popular and widely observed meteor showers is almost here! It isn't the most prolific shower of the year but is the most reliable. The Perseids are known for their bright and fast-moving meteors. Many of them leave persistent trails and occasionally produce fireballs, which are exceptionally bright meteors that can light up the sky and leave a glowing streak behind. This shower typically occurs from late July to mid-August each year, and this year, it peaks on the night of August 12th.
The Perseids are named after the constellation Perseus, as the meteors appear to originate from that direction in the sky. They are associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle. As the Earth passes through the trail of debris left by the comet, the tiny particles burn up upon entering the Earth's atmosphere, creating the meteor shower.
The Perseid meteor shower is known for its reliability. Under ideal conditions, you can expect to see around 60 meteors per hour during the peak on the night of August 13th. It’s important to note that actual visibility can vary depending on factors such as light pollution, weather conditions, and the Moon's phase. Luckily, a slender Waning Crescent Moon won’t affect the 2023 shower!
Slooh Astronomer Paul Cox said, “Each Perseid meteor we see is a tiny particle released by a comet named 109P/Swift-Tuttle. The comet returns to the inner solar system every 133 years, and it's an absolute litterbug - leaving a trail of debris in its wake. When the Earth passes through this trail, some of the particles (meteoroids) enter Earth's atmosphere at a staggering 133,200 mph and vaporize in a breathtaking display often called a shooting star”.
If you plan to observe the Perseids (and we hope you do!), you will want to find a location away from city lights that has a clear, unobstructed view of the sky. Lie on a reclining chair or a blanket on the ground and simply look up. You don’t need binoculars or a telescope. Nor do you need to look right at Perseus: the meteors can appear anywhere in the sky. Those with long streaks come into the atmosphere at an oblique angle. Those with shorter streaks enter the atmosphere at a steep angle and come more directly toward you… and no, they will not hit you! We hope you get a chance to get out and enjoy the show.